The Mag: GAMES OF THE YEAR; MARTYN LEEK picks his top 10 games to hit consoles this year.
THE LEGEND OF ZELDA: THE WIND WAKER (GameCube, Nintendo)
THIS game was released back in March and I've been playing it ever since.
Produced by Nintendo's Shigeru Miyamoto, it was the first Zelda game for the GameCube and also the first to use cel-shaded or cartoon-style graphics.
Diehard fans were in uproar about the change in style, saying it made the game look as if it was for kids. But to pinpoint just the graphics is to misunderstand the whole Zelda experience.
The game finds young lad Link embarking on an epic adventure to save his kid sister and a bunch of other similar-looking lasses from an unnamed evil mastermind.
What's different from other titles in the series is that Link now lives in a land flooded by a great ocean.
Later sailing sections can get a little tedious but this game on the whole is hugely rewarding. The graphics are top-notch and give the game a Disney feel. The gameplay is absolutely rock-solid and the combat well-executed.
This game gently cranks up the difficulty until the end. A masterpiece of game design and great fun.
2. CALL OF DUTY (PC, Activision)
THE PC has its fair share of games set in World War II but what sets this excellent action shooting game apart is the sheer sense of drama that pervades it.
Different from some games, in which you feel like the conquering hero, here you dodge from cover to cover under heavy fire from the hordes of Nazis.
It includes huge scripted action events but you never feel that you're being pushed in a certain direction. A PC classic.
3. ADVANCE WARS II (GBA, Nintendo)
WAR strategy games are usually for PCs rather than handheld consoles but this has to be one of the most addictive titles to be released this year.
It may be war but it's a Nintendo war where all the tanks are brightly coloured and the generals are young lads named Sam.
The initial premise is simple -you build up your army and then attack the enemy. Working on the basis of scissor, paper and stone, some units are more powerful than others. That's where tactics come in!
4. PRINCE OF PERSIA: SANDS OF TIME (All formats, Ubisoft)
THIS is the first proper 3D outing for the Prince of Persia (ignore the dreadful POP 3D) and fully captures the spirit of the original platform game that graced the PC, Amiga and GameBoy in the early 90s.
This time the Prince has a new bag of tricks including running up walls and the ability to rewind and freeze time. This is a very challenging game and sudden death by falling from great heights can happen at any time.
But the Sands of Time twist make this a very interesting title. A modern marvel.
5. PROJECT GOTHAM RACING 2 (X-Box, Microsoft)
THIS is the best racing game of the year because of the sheer replayability. You'll just keep coming back in an attempt to beat times and upgrade your car as you race round cities from Hong Kong to Washington.
Connect your X-Box to the internet via X-Box Live and you can download ghost cars from some of the fastest people in the world, compare your times against other people on leaderboards and race against complete strangers.
This is true world gaming... at long last.
6. SSX 3 (All formats, EA)
GAMES producers EA are often unfairly criticised for the number of sequels they put on to the market. But this is one title that gamers can be thankful for.
EA have taken the basic snowboarding game and added much more to it. The graphics are ace, the music is excellent and the game is very exciting.
The tracks you race on are huge and very well designed. You'll be scared silly at times!
7. XIII (All formats, Ubisoft)
YOU play a mystery assassin with the number 13 tattooed on your chest, hence the title. This first-person shooter is an excellent game and has one of the best plots ever seen.
You're unsure who to trust throughout this title and the cartoon graphics make it the most stylish game of the year. But be warned that it's very hard.
Only an annoying save system stops it from being higher in this list.
8. STAR WARS: KNIGHTS OF THE OLD REPUBLIC (X-Box and PC, Bioware)
MANY substandard games have cashed in Star Wars over the years. This is NOT one of them.
Set hundreds of years before the Phantom Menace, it's one of the best roleplay games you'll ever try. The plot is even better than some of the recent films and you get to play as a Jedi.
What makes it so interesting is that, although it looks like a 3D action game, you get to make moral decisions that steer you over to the dark or light side of the force. Excellent.
9. IKARUGA (GameCube, Nintendo)
THIS game is a slice of retro heaven. Harking back to the 80s, it's a 2D scrolling shooter reminiscent of titles like R-Type and Defender -very Japanese and very hardcore.
It's hard to see this game, designed by Treasure, coming out on any console other than the GameCube and that's a crying shame because it's just like an arcade shooter of old.
Don't be deceived. It sounds simple but it's the hardest game of the year.
10. SHENMUE II (X-Box, Microsoft)
LESS of a game and more of an experience, this is the follow-up to the Dreamcast classic that was designed to be the 'game of all games'.
In this roleplay epic you play as Ryu, and you're still trying to track down your father's killers. Your journey takes you to Hong Kong where you meet gangsters and oddballs who ask 'Do you do kung-fu?'
A marvellous game but it'll take over your life.
EPIC ADVENTURE: Link sets off to rescue his sister; STYLISH: the mystery assassin XIII
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|Publication:||Sunday Mercury (Birmingham, England)|
|Date:||Dec 28, 2003|
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